Leitrim's Tom McKeon tries to break away from the tackle of a Mayo player last Wednesday. Photo by Michael Donnelly
Leitrim U17 manager Gene Bohan hit out at the refusal of Mayo and the Connacht Council to grant his team a postponement of last Wednesday's Connacht U17 Championship encounter in Elverys MacHale Park.
Leitrim suffered a heavy 4-20 to 1-8 defeat in Castlebar but only trailed by six points early in the second half before Mayo turned the screw with an avalanche of scores to secure a 21 point victory.
The Leitrim manager nevertheless told his team after the game to hold their heads high after a battling effort - “ I’m just after saying to the lads to try and keep their heads up. We’ve came over here and we’ve had score-lines like that before, we’re just looking ahead and looking to Roscommon in seven weeks time.”
The circumstances of the game, where Leitrim had sought a postponement on the grounds that five Leitrim players missed the game as they were travelling to New York with their families, didn’t help Leitrim’s cause.
And Bohan insisted he was not making excuses - “We’re not looking for excuses but in fairness when you are missing five lads, four of which would have started tonight, it doesn’t make it easy. We have a panel of 27 and, out of that, we have four injuries as well as the five lads who are in America.
"We flagged the fixture we thought was a problem in January, Connacht Council were let know in January and the vibe we got at that stage was there would be no issue, it will be sorted, it will be changed. As it progressed, there didn’t seem to be anything happening."
"Then Mayo were approached to see if they would do us a favour and seemingly the comment that came back from the Mayo management was that they were just using it as a training session, a warm-up to the Roscommon game next week.
"We didn’t take kindly to that comment either and listen, I think Connacht Council could have been a bit more accommodating as well. The game was originally fixed for Friday the 4th. From Friday, there is seven weeks until we play Roscommon. I think the game could have been fitted somewhere in those seven weeks.
"We gave them two options where we thought it was an option to play the game. Even with the second option, there was still a week and a half, two weeks before the Leaving Cert started which they claim the Leaving Cert starting was an issue in it.
"The whole age group was changed from U18 to U17 to take the whole Leaving Cert out of the equation so we don’t understand why we couldn’t have been accommodated somewhere in between."
And Bohan feels that Leitrim may have to change their attitude towards accommodating other counties in the future - "Maybe that is part of our problem, maybe we are too accommodating, maybe we have to learn from this and dig our heels-in in the future.
"We’re not looking for favours, we’re not looking for anything like that. We’re just looking for a little bit of fair play as well and it just reeks a little bit of the wee county over there in the east of the Province which doesn’t really matter. That’s what we take away from it," stressed Bohan.
Looking for positives from the game, Gene was fulsome in his praise - “David O’Connell awesome at midfield. David would be the one to come out and be shouting, telling you this and telling you that, he is a quiet lad, he gets on with what he does but I keep telling him he is as good a midfielder as in the country and I think he showed that today.
“Tom Prior in the forward line, another positive from tonight, Matthew Earley in the goals did absolute fantastic. We might be complaining about this and that but I’ve told those lads that we’re pushing forward and looking forward to Roscommon in seven weeks.”
Gene also felt that the first half penalty conceded was a bad decision - “The first half, Mayo got a good start, very dodgy refereeing decision for a penalty. We pulled them back, we had a goal chance and we had Mayo on the rack for 14-15 minutes there.
“That tells me if we were able to bring in a couple of subs maybe at that stage, we could have pushed on. We’ll never know, we weren’t given the opportunity.
“We were coming tonight thinking we could win the match. That option was put on the table that we could throw the game. We had 17 players togged out and we thought we’re not going to throw the game, we’re going to give those lads the opportunity to play championship football.
“They’ve got a sniff at it and hopefully they can lift themselves. We wanted to try and believe before the game that they could win it but realistically, it wasn’t going to happen.”